On Wednesday, District 21 Democrat and State Senator Billie Sutton has invited people to visit his family ranch outside of the town of Burke for an announcement regarding his political future.
Since most people don’t invite media out to their ranch for an announcement that they’re retiring from politics, I think we can safely assume he’s running ‘for something.’ He has been long rumored to be interested in running for Governor, so it is a safe bet that this is the campaign that he’s going to be throwing his hat in the ring for.
Billie’s candidacy is kind of unique for South Dakota Democrats, as on the surface, he comes off as a kindred spirit to the party’s offering for Governor in 1990, Faith rancher Bob Samuelson who made teacher pay a major issue in his campaign (and was handily defeated in the contest on a 59 – 41% basis by Governor George S. Mickelson).
Sutton comes off as a rare West River Democrat who on the surface seems to have a conservative bent. Pro-life Democrat Julie Bartling from Sutton’s own District is counted in that number. And there’s another one or two of them. But by and large, and driving the reason behind conservative South Dakota’s further reddening into one of the deepest red states in the country, traditionally conservative Democrats don’t exist anymore.
So as voters may seek a palatable candidate who has the same values as they do, they immediately pass over Democrats because they know they don’t share their values, based on what they see on TV and read in the media on a daily basis.
What people read and see is a world outside the Midwest which encroaches more and more on their own and it’s one that they’d largely like to shelter themselves from. They don’t want their kids showering with the opposite sex in locker rooms. They don’t want anti-police riots in the street. They don’t like being told what to do, or lectured what they think is ‘political incorrectness.’ They think people should be paid what they’re worth, and they don’t want to give government one more dime than their fair share. They hate President Obama and Obamacare, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, etcetera and so on.
So, nearly thirty years after the last “West River Cowboy Democrat” tried it, where does a Billie Sutton candidacy stand in this election as taking on the mantle of being the spokesman and leader of the Democrat Party agenda versus a South Dakota that has rejected it with more and more fervor every year?
While he’s not a Sioux Falls or Aberdeen liberal firebrand, in looking at the Sutton record, his record isn’t especially in red or even deep purple territory. It seems to be quite blue.
Sutton was rated at 100% supporting the LGBT Activist group South Dakota Equality in 2015 and 2016. According to the American Conservative Union, he has not been ranked at above 50%, and most recently was scored at 30%. And he’s gone up and down in the NRA’s rankings, from C+, to 50%, and was at 79% in 2016.
And if we start drilling down into specifics, Sutton has been advocating for a bill on Medical Marijuana, increasing state legislator salaries, was against prohibiting the employment of illegal aliens, recently sponsored a bill for state-funded preschool, and has been a vocal proponent of Obamacare. These aren’t exactly positions solidly in “red” territory.
About the only consistent conservative position Sutton has held is on abortion. In 2011 and 2012 he was at 100% for South Dakota Right to Life, but dropped in 2015 before being ranked at 100% again in 2016. NARAL has Sutton at 50%
Fairly conservative on Abortion, but when it comes to the other issues, Sutton seems to openly embrace and even promote the larger Democrat agenda pursued by the most openly Blue, “Bernie Sanders loving” liberal Democrats of the extreme left.
So, to answer the question “As a candidate, would Billie Sutton reject the Democrat social agenda, or is he aligned with it?” I think you have your answer. Sutton may be a nice guy. And he may wearing a cowboy hat.
But don’t think it translates into him being a mis-identified Republican by any stretch of the imagination.